PARIS – Paris on Saturday was the only place to go for die-hard Jim Morrison fans.
Fifty years after his death at the age of 27, rock music fans from France and around the world went to Père-Lachaise cemetery in eastern Paris, where the leader of the Doors is buried. Many brought candles and photos, and some burned incense sticks near his grave as police nearby watched.
“Jim and The Doors have been our heroes since we were children. It is an honor to be here and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his death today,” said Dutuar Platzek.
The 50-year-old fan traveled from Halle, Germany with his childhood friend Mathias Barthel. The two had not returned to Père-Lachaise cemetery for over 25 years.
Year after year, the place has become a pilgrimage for Morrison fans, known for its somber lyrics, wavy locks, leather pants, steely gaze, and theatrical stage presence. He propelled The Doors to several big hits between 1965 and 1967, including “Light My Fire”, “Hello I Love You”, “Touch Me” and “Riders on the Storm”.
Michelle Campbell was 21 when Morrison died in 1971, living in Texas and studying photography. His first “July 3” – the anniversary of Morrison’s death – was in 1989. At the time, the grave was unmarked and a fan had made a wooden cross.
She has since moved to Paris and comes to Père-Lachaise almost every year, taking photos of Morrison’s grave and his fans, many of whom have become friends.
“(It’s like) people sitting on sofas in someone’s apartment, rather than on a grave, talking and meeting,” she recalls. “It was really lovely … I always come as much as I can because it’s always so wonderful.”
Colleen Amblard drove seven hours from her hometown of Domancy in the French Alps to visit the grave. The 21-year-old student told The Associated Press “It is very moving to be here, to remember Jim Morrison … to show that he is not forgotten.”
“We recognize his talent and the fact that he was a brilliant person, he was truly a genius,” she said.
Like many other fans, Amblard was planning to visit other sites where Morrison spent time while living in Paris, from his apartment to the old nightclub where some say he died of a heroin overdose.
Born in 1943 in Melbourne, Florida, Morrison was the son of a US Navy officer and constantly moved as a child, growing up in Florida, Virginia, Texas, New Mexico and California.
He said he witnessed the aftermath of a terrible car crash on a Native American reservation as a child, an event that featured prominently in his later lyrics and poetry. An avid reader, he is strongly influenced by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the poet Arthur Rimbaud and the surrealist playwright Antonin Artaud.
In 1965, while living in the bohemian Venice Beach neighborhood of Los Angeles and frequently taking LSD, he and keyboardist Ray Manzarek, another UCLA film student, founded The Doors. Guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore joined soon after.
Morrison and The Doors would burn with a thousand fires, releasing the albums “The Doors” and “Strange Days” in 1967, “The Soft Parade” in 1968 and “Morrison Hotel” in 1970. Morrison’s dynamic stage presence was fully visible during the event. of his appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and at the Hollywood Bowl.
But the group would quickly run out as Morrison slipped into alcoholism. He has been arrested twice for his antics on stage, including a concert in Miami which saw him convicted of indecent exposure and swearing. He was posthumously pardoned in 2010.
Morrison made his last album with The Doors, “LA Woman”, in 1971, and moved to Paris soon after.
There, on July 3, 1971, he was found dead in a bathtub. No autopsy was performed and the accounts of the causes of his death are disputed.
He was one of many rock stars – including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones – to die at age 27.
His status as a legendary figure for rock fans has never wavered. On the 20th anniversary of his death in 1991, the biopic “The Doors” directed by Oliver Stone was released, starring Val Kilmer as Morrison.